• English composer Will Todd is well known for his beautiful and exciting music. His work encompasses choral works large and small, opera, musical theatre and orchestral pieces, as well as jazz compositions and chamber works. His anthem, The Call of Wisdom, was performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations with a TV audience of 45 million people. His breakthrough work, Mass in Blue (originally titled Jazz Mass), has been performed hundreds of times all over the world. His arrangement of Amazing Grace was performed at President Obama’s Inauguration Day prayer service in 2013 and as part of the BBC’s Nelson Mandela Thanksgiving Service. This CD celebrates the work of the Bach Choir’s amazing outreach project with local schools, which culminated in 2016 with the new commission Lights, Stories, Noise, Dreams, Love and Noodles with words celebrated poet Michael Rosen. Other works on the disc include Will Todd’s vibrant settings of Shakespeare for choir and orchestra Songs of Magical Creatures, and a work in memory of Mark Blanco Kites, Cards and Constellations.
  • Gustavo Díaz-Jerez is one of the leading composers and pianists in Spain. His compositional output spans all genres, from solo works to opera. His works have been premiered by prestigious ensembles and orchestras. His orchestral work Ymarxa, commissioned by the XXVII Canary Islands Music Festival, was premiered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit. In 2018, his first opera was premiered, La casa imaginaria. This album represents the culmination of more than ten years of compositional work. A unique endeavour in the history of music in the Canary Islands, it comprises seven symphonic poems – almost two and a half hours of music – which evoke the landscapes and natural beauty of the Canaries. The cycle takes its name, Maghek (“the one who creates brightness”), from the sun-goddess of the Guanches, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands. Each piece is inspired by a specific locale on a different island; some resurrect forgotten stories. Naturalistic tonal painting (the sea, the wind, the rugged scenery) is a constant feature throughout the cycle.
  • Eric Whitacre, normally known for his choral compositions and arrangements, personally requested Joby Burgess arrange some of his well-known works for Marimba quartet. This unique recording shows the warm, earthly tones of the marimba, beautifully playing the lush harmonies of Whitacre's choral works.
  • Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, the forty-day period of fasting and penitence which precedes Easter. Ashes are placed on worshippers’ foreheads in the shape of a cross, as a sign of repentance. Evensong on this day has been an especially important service in the liturgical year at St John’s; the BBC started transmitting it live in 1972. For several decades the service was broadcast annually; more recently it has been biennial. 2019 was a live broadcast year, however the recording on this release uses our own microphones, permanently installed in St John’s College Chapel for webcasting, rather than those of the BBC. This recording will be released around the same time that the Dean of St John’s, Mark Oakley, releases a book on George Herbert’s poems, called My Sour Sweet Days. The book and the recording go well in tandem, as in the Deans first sermon at St. John’s, he said “I believe that when we walk here (The Chapel), we walk into a poem. The liturgy is poetry in motion, and we sometimes fail to understand its density of suggestion, the eavesdropping on the soul, the sensitive state of consciousness that its poetry can prompt.”
  • The Albion Quartet continue their Dvořák series with Signum. This is their second release on the label, featuring Dvořák's 8th & 10th string quartets.
  • Alessio Bax plays an Italian inspired programme, picking his favourite pieces taken from a rich history of music from one of the most romantic countries in the world. He opens the programme with a J.S. Bach transcription of a oboe concerto by Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello, which reveals a deep insight into Bach’s mind. This is followed by Rachmaninov’s last ever work for solo piano, which is incredibly eloquent, introspective and personal. The Dallapiccola continues this eloquent theme, showing some beautifully crafted dodecaphonism. The recording is rounded off with two pieces of Liszt, which take the listener on a multi-legged journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, with beauty and drama along the way.
  • Disc on Demand available from Presto Classical David Goode continues his series of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach, played on the Metzler Söhne organ of Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge. This digital-only recording is available from all major download stores and streaming services in MP3, CD Quality and Studio Quality/24-bit audio, and includes an extensive note on the works by George Parsons. It is also available to buy as a disc on demand – made to order with a printed booklet and inlay.
  • "Singing together binds us together. From the Protestant Reformation in Europe during the 1500s to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, there have been countless moments in history when songs have united nations, cultures and causes. This is still the case in today’s world. Finding Harmony is evidence that music has always been our common language. A unique collection of pieces that span the globe – including music that’s too often forgotten – each song is the key to a powerful true story about who we are and how we’ve got here. Together, Finding Harmony proves how deeply we can be moved by all kinds of stories when songs connect us to them, and to each other."
  • After the success of their debut disc, ‘Voyages’, Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton present their second recital disc exploring Lieder in German and Italian by Schubert, Haydn and Wolf. The programme is woven around songs inspired by the ‘muses’ of the day, both mythological and divine. It begins with Schubert’s dramatic and reverential settings of sacred German poetry, set alongside his lush emotional portrayals of female characters in the Italian settings. The central section of the disc is then devoted to Haydn’s epic ‘scena’ depicting the famously cruel abandonment of Arianna by her lover Teseo, ‘Arianna a Naxos’. Haydn’s beautiful prayer ‘Geistliches Lied’ takes us back into the world of German poetry and the religious fervour that arose from the collective belief in Christianity which pervaded most art forms of the age. The disc then moves into works by Hugo Wolf, whose stunning settings of devotional texts take the listener right to the heart of the characters; a few of these songs were in fact inspired by paintings. The early moments of Jesus Christ’s life are vividly portrayed here, particularly in songs such as ‘Die ihr Schwebet’, ‘Auf ein Altes Bild’ and ‘Schlafendes Jesuskind’, while the haunting ‘Gesang Weylas’ invites the listener into the world of the mysterious goddes Weyla who wistfully dreams of the shores of her distant homeland. From Ganymed to Christ, Dido to the Virgin Mary, Arianna to St Peter, this recital disc richly illustrates the lives and events surrounding the ‘divine muses’ who inspired these composers.
  • “In a word I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair over this ever makes things worse and worse instead of better …but I have tried my hand at several instrumental things … in fact, I intend to pave the way towards a grand symphony in this manner.” These extracts from a letter of 1824 epitomise to me the paradox of Schubert, the manic depressive composer. On the one hand his music has that world-weary element of profound grief – ‘the most wretched creature in the world’ – and on the other a life-affirming exuberance bordering on the manic that characterises the Wanderer-Fantasie and parts of the D major sonata D.850. While Schubert’s later piano music has a range of emotions that rivals Beethoven’s last sonatas, in the beginning of his career he perhaps lacked the assurance of the older composer, and he was less fastidious about destroying sketches and fragments. As a result there are a large number of unfinished works and, therefore, the pianist has to make a decision about where to start the Schubert odyssey. Schubert himself made no effort to try and publish any of his sonatas before the great A minor D.845 of 1825. I decided to start slightly earlier with the B major of 1817 where one senses an assurance and boldness of tonal experiment not found before in his piano music. In this series, Llŷr Williams explores Schubert’s solo piano repertoire in exquisite detail, producing some truly unique performances of some of the most romantic music ever composed.
  • “In a word I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair over this ever makes things worse and worse instead of better ...but I have tried my hand at several instrumental things ... in fact, I intend to pave the way towards a grand symphony in this manner.” These extracts from a letter of 1824 epitomise to me the paradox of Schubert, the manic-depressive composer. On the one hand his music has that world-weary element of profound grief – ‘the most wretched creature in the world’ – and on the other a life-affirming exuberance bordering on the manic that characterises the Wanderer-Fantasie and parts of the D major sonata D.850. Here, Llyr Williams plays a collection of Schubert solo piano works across a series of releases, once again showing why he is one of the most diverse and extraordinary pianists performing today.